Tracers

Even in a powerplay situation, each Flyers’ line is allowed no more than one minute to be on the ice and during that minute I want an all out effort.

This all out effort creates the tempo of the game, whereby we are always pushing the other team, keeping them guessing as to our next move. Our tempo keeps us on the offensive and forces the opposition to make mistakes. We built such a tempo in our game against the Bruins in Boston during the 1974 Stanley Cup finals that it just destroyed them.

A team cannot create the tempo of the game with just one line. Some coaches will try to favor one line over the others, thereby giving the other lines a sense of inferiority. I can put (Orest) Kindrachuk’s line against Esposito’s line and not worry about it, because our lines are all good and are capable of playing against any line in professional hockey today.

Boston will play the Esposito line for a 4-minutes shift, while we’ll have three lines against them in that time. Thus, by moving our lines on a one-minute shift, we can create a faster tempo during the game.

We always have a fresh player on the ice.

-Fred Shero, 1975.

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19 Responses to "Tracers"

  1. GorillazXL says:

    I hope this is MacT’s game plan, cos with the absence of Reasoner and Peterssen who will he double shift?

    I almost think this is the way to go anyways, especially during the playoffs. OPne of the key reasons why the Oilers did so well against tehir opponents during the 06 run was not only Pronger but also they ran with all four lines. As the season wears on this will help out with injuries.

    GXL

  2. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    Pouliot, Stotini and whoever replace Moreau mighthave a little trouble with Zetterberg and Datsyuk.

  3. Bruce says:

    This just in: everybody has trouble with Zetterberg and Datsyuk. People keep fixating on those guys, but nobody has the solution.

    Your example of a match-up is a little extreme and probably better avoided, but Shero’s point was fresh legs and energy and attitude would go a long way regardless of match-up. He was certainly right in the 70s, and I’m not so sure that he’s wrong today.

    I remember when we got rid of Norm Maciver because he wasn’t physical enough to deal with the likes of Cam Neely. Neither was anybody else in the league, but in Maciver’s case this perceived weakness, exaggerated by comparing him to opposing All-Stars, was his ticket out of town. To address the problem Oilers drafted a bunch of guys like Frankie Leroux who couldn’t handle the Neelys of the league, or the small skill forwards either.

  4. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    Of course that was an extreme example but they would have a great del of trouble handling many lines.

    I doubt the Oilers have the personnel to throw any of 4 lines out against any other line.

    First, the kids would get killed and the 4th line was exposed pretty badly when Stortini, Stoll and Torres wnet up against Crosby and company.

    What i think LT is angling for here is Cole on the 3rd line.

  5. Lowetide says:

    Actually, I wasn’t angling for anything, but I’m enjoying the conversation.

    Shero was a brilliant coach, I think along with Bowman, Arbour and Neilson the cream of the crop in the 1970s.

    The centermen on that team were Clarke, MacLeish, Kindrachuk and Crisp. Clarke was the best center in the game, MacLeish was like Paul Coffey as a center, Kindrachuk was a very good checker who could score and Terry Crisp was a very good checker who couldn’t score.

    So, Shero had one center to protect and he gave him Ross Lonsberry and Gary Dornhoefer who would be about equal to two Fernando Pisani’s.

    I still don’t think MacLeish saw Esposito-Cashman-Hodge very much but he only had two one dimensional forwards to protect (the other being Reg Leach) and he had Bobby Clarke who at that time was worth two of anyone not named Orr.

  6. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    So…since you drew the comparison in a tangential way LT, could you conceive of the Oilers following Shero’s dictum with the personnel they have?

  7. Lowetide says:

    No. C-LW-RW):

    Clarke-Barber-Leach
    MacLeish-Lonsberry-Dornhoefer
    Kindrachuk-Schultz-Saleski
    Crisp-Clement-Kelly

    So you’ve got:

    1. One elite level center (Clarke)
    2. Two elite offensive players (MacLeish, Leach)
    3. Two young players who have surprisingly complete games (Barber, Clement)
    4. Three veterans who can play in any situation (Lonsberry, Dornhoefer, Kindrachuk)
    5. One guy who can penalty kill and win faceoffs like a demon (Crisp)
    6. Three guys remembered as goons but they could play (Saleski, Kelly, Schultz)

    Okay, let’s do the Oilers:

    Horcoff-Penner-Hemsky
    Gagner-Cogliano-Nilsson
    Brodziak-Pisani-Cole
    Pouliot-Moreau-Stortini

    1. One quality center (Horcoff)
    2. One quality offensive player (Hemsky) and a guy who will be (Gagner).
    3. Two young players who may one day have surprisingly complete games (Cogliano, Brodziak).
    4. Two veterans who can play in any situation (Pisani, Cole) and a guy we’re hoping will develop that way (Penner).
    5. One guy who can penalty kill like a demon (Moreau).
    6. One guy who might join the group at #2 and two guys who are still developing (Pouliot, Stortini).

    So if you took Gagner and made him MacLeish, Shero’s way would be this line:
    Gagner-Penner-Cole

    And the Clarke line would be:
    Horcoff-Cogliano-Hemsky

    The checking line would be:
    Brodziak-Pisani-Stortini

    The Crisp line would be:
    Pouliot-Moreau-Nilsson

    And JF Jacques would be on the team. He’s a Fred Shero player for sure. Jacques would play over Nilsson.

    Seriously.

  8. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    Wouldn’t Cole relate more to Barber or Leach?

    And, given his total lack of impact in the NHL, how do you see Jacques on a Shero team? if he starts to play like an NHL player sure, but I haven’t seen anything but size that Shero would like.

  9. Lowetide says:

    Jacques speed/size combination is pure Shero and he’d find a way. The guys he sent away (Rick Foley, etc) were good players who didn’t buy into the team system.

    Stickhandling by people wasn’t the Shero way, so Hemsky might have a time, too. :-)

    Cole fits the Barber comp, but he was very young and Cole is a better fit in the Lonsberry group imo.

  10. Slipper says:

    It would be cool to have shift charts from that period of time, because I have serious doubts about Shero rolling his lines 1-2-3-4, as he outlines in this gem of a quote.

    Although keeping the lines fresh by limiting the players’ shift lengths is good stuff. The Rog was a big proponent of this, to the extent that he’d have his AC’s and back-ups logging shifting lengths using stop watches, paper and pencil.

    I’d be willing to bet, without ever having looked at the information, that if someone were to seperate the events on the ice for shifts under 45 seconds and shift over 45 seconds, a high majority of the over 45 second shift events would be goals against.

    It would probably be so lopsided and ugly that nobody in their right mind could argue in favour of a player staying out on ice for anything over 45 seconds. Ever.

  11. Lowetide says:

    slipper: I’m not certain they even rolled 4 lines during those years. I’d have to check old HN, but my guess is Shero would have dressed 11 forwards.

    I think his quote “Boston will play the Esposito line for a 4-minutes shift, while we’ll have three lines against them in that time” means they would have rolled the Clarke line twice (as a for instance).

  12. Slipper says:

    And a 4 minute shift for Esposito… with how much they drank and smoked back then?

    I’ve read a Roger Neilson biography or two, and fresh legs were his thing, aswell. Always wanted to be able to run his bench through and through. Apparently him and Bowman had a lot of philosophical disagreements about this, as Scotty was a match the top players against the top players kind of guy.

    I’ve heard a few coaches (Nolan comes to mind) give the song and dance about having players with their asses glued to the bench, or having to hide players from opponents, is exploitable weakness for a team. I always sort doubt these people, because I doubt their sane minds would allow them to match the Kindrachuks against the Espositos for an own zone draw. Ecspecially come April.

    “…thereby giving the other lines a sense of inferiority.”

    Perhaps this is true or maybe it’s just realistic. Once every so often a team plays outside, or better even, above their abilities for a short ammount of time.

    “…because our lines are all good and are capable of playing against any line in professional hockey today.”

    On any given day this statement is probably not true, either on paper or in action. Yet that mentality could never hurt, but it could possibly help.

    I mean here Shero is talking about tempo, and belief can sure put a jump in a man’s step. You know what I mean?

  13. Lowetide says:

    slipper: I’ve seen some of those old Bruins games again in the last few years and there were lots of slow movements in those Espo shifts. Just hanging around the neutral zone waiting for possession.

    He was a helluva player for a few years there, though. 76-76-152 in 1970 was as big a deal in its time as 99′s big season a little more than a decade later.

  14. Bruce says:

    First, the kids would get killed and the 4th line was exposed pretty badly when Stortini, Stoll and Torres wnet up against Crosby and company.

    FCM: At the time that was effectively the second line, not the fourth, and Crosby and company (the East’s answer to Zetterberg and Datsyuk) did indeed burn them for two goals in one period, officially ending the 14-16-46 experiment. (Stoll and Torres wound up in the PB the next game.) Funny how people remember that one disastrous game and not the 8 games previous to that where that trio played together and the Oilers went 6-2-0, largely by rolling four lines. Probably was Jarret’s and Raffi’s best hockey of the season. :)

    LT/Slipper: Esposito did indeed like the long shifts, routinely hanging around for the entire two minutes of every Bruin powerplay even if he had played the preceding shift. 550 shots on goal in that 76-goal season, obviously he/they must have been doing something right. But the Flyers beat the Bruins in ’74 with focussed, short shifts.

    One of Freddy the Fog’s famous philosophies was to “Take the shortest route to the puck and arrive in ill humour.” Flyers constantly outmanned other clubs around the puck, as the third guy into almost every one-on-one battle always seemed to be wearing orange and black. e.g. Bob (Hound) Kelly never played more than 35 seconds at a time it seemed, but he sure made things happen when he was out there and then he got the hell off the ice. Crude, but very effective.

  15. Sean says:

    Flyers constantly outmanned other clubs around the puck, as the third guy into almost every one-on-one battle always seemed to be wearing orange and black

    Thats exactly what Detroit does now and they make it look easy.

    I’m not old enough to know this but how long did a game take to play in the 70s? Shorter TV timeouts, less penalties (less whistles) and shorter intermissions? That to me implies that rolling 4 lines would be more important back then because recovery times would be smaller.

  16. Doogie2K says:

    I’m not old enough to know this but how long did a game take to play in the 70s? Shorter TV timeouts, less penalties (less whistles) and shorter intermissions?

    Maybe fewer minors, but especially when you played the Flyers, you expected a long game. I’ve read that referees used to beg them to cut the bullshit late in a game and let it end so they could get out with time to get a bite and a drink before everything was closed.

  17. godot10 says:

    I think Fred Shero was a good coach (and a practitioner of goon hockey), but it was Bernie Parent that made him appear to be a genius.

  18. Vic Ferrari says:

    slipper:

    I know what you’re saying, but firstly I don’t think that anyone disagrees with you, and secondly I’m not sure how you’d go about that anyways.

    I mean if you think back to the first two games of this year’s SCF, it’s what you expect, all Babcock’s big guns pointed at Crosby (btw, is it any wonder that Malkin ‘looks better out there’?).

    BDHS did a terrific job of covering this at the time. But in the third game that’s a matchup Therrien wanted to avoid, so he rolled them out at or near the end of Z’s shift. That’s perfect.

    In this case the Z line just stayed out there, whether it was there decision or Babcock’s to roll that way, I don’t know. Strange stuff in any case.

    So the head-to-head icetimes with Crosby-Z were still fairly high, at least his share, the difficulty of the icetime was an order of magnitude lower.

    A way of quantifying that is to compare Desjardin’s opposition numbers to pure EV shots-against. Guys who have a big swing in difference (hey, that Lupul has at least his fair share of icetime against good players, but they have a crappy level of shots-against him when it happens! The Joffer must really elevate his game against the star players!).

    Or maybe he’s a ‘shift-after’ guy. You decide.

    In any case, Michael Nylander is the absolute bomb at this. The shots-against rate while playing 1st liners is second to none, and it will be next year too (unless Boudreau picks up a drug habit).

    It’s the kind of anamoly that has lead the really mathy people on the internet to declare Ed Jovanovsky a spectacular defensive defenseman.

  19. Bruce says:

    //Flyers constantly outmanned other clubs around the puck, as the third guy into almost every one-on-one battle always seemed to be wearing orange and black//

    Thats exactly what Detroit does now and they make it look easy.

    That’s sort of what Detroit does. The “arriving in ill humour” part generally eludes them, they’re much more clinical. But they’re damned good at supporting the puck, that’s for sure.

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